The Kansas City Chiefs can improve its wide receiver group during the upcoming NFL Draft, which opens at Kansas City’s Union Station a week from Thursday. Some might even say that if the team wants to return to the Super Bowl in February, it must improve there.
The team did lose wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman in free agency. Between them, they accounted for 1,230 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Yet Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Justin Watson all suited up for Super Bowl LVII — and will be back this season. The team has also added former New York Giants slot receiver Richie James — and this summer, will finally get to see low-risk/high-reward lottery ticket Justyn Ross on the field.
While it would be fabulous for the Chiefs to draft a starting-caliber perimeter target for their MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes, it is not a prerequisite to another championship in 2023.
Let’s look at a few of the reasons why.
Reid, Mahomes and Kelce
Remember when the Chiefs’ offense was expected to take a big step backwards because the team traded wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins? Me, too.
There’s a simple reason Kansas City continued to have the NFL’s No. 1 offense in 2022: it still has its trio of first-ballot Hall of Famers — namely, head coach Andy Reid, quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce.
Reid and Mahomes continue to be the Chiefs’ single biggest edge over every other NFL team. Reid could actually be the most creative play caller the league has ever seen, while Mahomes can be considered the most talented quarterback to ever play the game. Then there is Kelce, who can make a solid case for being the greatest tight end of all time.
With Reid, Mahomes and Kelce leading the way, having the best receiving targets shouldn’t be the goal. Instead, it should be to have the best all-around team around them — one that is very good across the board. The Chiefs don’t need a great receiving corps to reach the ultimate goal. Don’t believe it? Look no further than this past season.
So for the Chiefs’ brass to reach for a receiver in the first round — when there are more highly-graded players at other important positions available — would be nothing less than malpractice.
The trenches are the top priority
Reid’s teams have always placed great emphasis on building their offensive and defensive lines. Reid — himself a former offensive tackle — has often spoken about the importance of these position groups.
Since Reid came to Kansas City in 2013, the Chiefs haven’t used a single one of their first-round picks on a wide receiver — while four have been used for offensive and defensive linemen. Including the trades for players like defensive end Frank Clark and offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. displays an even larger resource allocation toward the big fellas.
With the team’s starting right tackle for 2023 still unknown — and considering that an NFL team can never have too many good pass rushers — these remain Kansas City’s prime areas of need. If the Chiefs arrive at the 31st pick with a similarly-graded lineman and wide receiver still available, taking the lineman will probably be the better solution for both the short and long term.
Still, given the amount of youth already in the wide receiver room, the team may still be considering adding a veteran to lead the group. Remember: the team executed their trades for both Clark and Brown less than a week before the draft.
Over the weekend, there was more information indicating mutual interest between the Chiefs and the Arizona Cardinals’ All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins. While acquiring Hopkins in a trade would be difficult for Kansas City under the salary cap, it’s easy to see what a player with his credentials could bring to the group — while also allowing the Chiefs to round out the defensive and offensive lines early in the draft.
The bottom line
To be totally clear, there are perfectly normal scenarios in which Kansas City could end up with a wide receiver in either the first or second round of the draft; it will all depend on how general manager Brett Veach has graded the players who will end up being available between the draft’s 20th and 65th picks.
That said, we shouldn’t panic if Veach doesn’t take a wideout in the first two days. Even after trading away an All-Pro wide receiver, the franchise has proven it they can field an elite offense. Even with the wide receivers currently on the roster, that isn’t likely to change — especially if it means the team will have even better players on its offensive and defensive lines.